Education is the most important civic right of a human being. We have no doubt about it. But throughout the last few decades, we have seen a lot of questions regarding the way we receive the education. Currently, we have a system that tries to educate all children uniformly. Though, we know that every single human mind is different and unique, we use the same pattern to educate all and expect things to change. It's time we used a different approach – personalized learning!
Have you heard of the example of the fish? It goes like this – our education system tries to educate and assess a fish, then judges its capability of flying! Everybody has to read the same book and cover the same curriculum. But is it fair to the students?
It is quite normal for the kids to have a potential for a particular thing or topic. What our system does is shave out the potentials and make them general pawns in the skill game.
It's time we put some deep thought to our education system and make a custom solution to the problem. The future is going to be very different. The only thing that will matter will be skill – nothing else!
Most of the jobs we think to be glorifying today might go extinct tomorrow. You might say that the education system depends on the qualification of the teachers and my children don’t have the best teachers in the world. One of the biggest boons that technology has blessed us with is seamless communication. That means we could use this very technology to learn from the best of the best teachers around the world.
That was a big opening speech! The point I am trying to make for so long is – we have the option open now finally. We can give our child the quality of education that we dreamt of all our life long.
Today, I am going to tell you about this alternative way of learning and how your child might get started.
Brace yourselves; this is going to be a long read! But let me assure you, the personalized learning approach might change the future of your child and might make him or her perfectly ready for the future coming ahead.
So, let’s get started, shall we?
Table of Contents
The Skill Game: What Tomorrow Offers?
Are We Skilled Enough?
Have you ever thought- How good our current education system is? Or is a university degree the only parameter to have a successful career?
First things first, education and career are completely two different concepts. But these two concepts are strongly co-related. Even in some point of views, you might say that a good educational background is a prerequisite to a good career.
For example, if someone wants to be a doctor or an engineer, he or she has to complete at least an MBBS or Bachelors' degree in Engineering. Or maybe someone wants to be a lawyer; it is mandatory to complete at least the LLB degree. So, you see, education is very important to have a sound career plan.
But we have forgotten an important parameter – this example is true for this era only. Such degrees were invalid in 300-400 years ago. So, will it be important in the future?
The Professions of the Future!
Researchers think the future will be very different from now and technology will play a big role to change it. If you are well aware of the Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning, then you will know that Artificial Intelligence or in simple words robots will do most of the jobs humans do now.
A well-made robot could perform even more precise operation than most qualified doctor now. A robot can make more logical reasoning to win you a lawsuit. The same kind of example can be said for most of the prestigious professions too.
So, it is obvious that humans need to harness more skills and on more unique fields that can be done by a human only.
It’s needless to say that mere cramming, doing repeated tasks, and performing petty jobs will not be enough to cope up with the future.
We need to harness skills like communication excellence, team-playing, critical problem solving, creative thinking, innovation, digital excellence, and adaptability.
Such skills cannot be taught using the education system we already have. We need to evolve, and our education system has to evolve as well.
Personalized Learning: The Kind of Learning We Deserve!
Now imagine an education system where the learners take complete ownership of what they want to learn, where they want, and when they want! We might not realize this – but we are actually practicing personalized learning every day in our life now.
Don't you believe me? Tell me the exact height of the Eiffel Tower. Some of you can tell me right away that the height is 324 meters. But others need to look at a search engine to answer my question, right?
That means, you faced a situation and decided to learn the answer on your own using your smartphone or a computer, from wherever you are, whenever you want.
Personalized learning is almost the same, well, at least it has the same basic concept. There are so many resources available online now that anyone with a suitable device and an internet connection can learn anything.
In this system, a learner takes complete ownership of his or her education making their skills more diverse and unique – more human!
So, doesn't this system have teachers? Well, of course, there are teachers. You cannot expect to learn if you don't have someone to teach you. But the system is diverse, and teachers create different learning environments and path to learning new things.
You seem too worried! Don't worry; I am here. I will guide you to adopt a systematic way to educate your child using personalized learning.
What is Personalized Learning? The Detailed Version
So, I have told you guys already about the future and how to dominate it with differential skillsets. But the big question is how your child can harness the skillsets?
From centuries on we have been educated with the method “one size fits all.” But does actually one size fits all?
One of the best weapons to break the stereotypical ideology is Personalized Learning. So, what kind of education or learning process can be characterized as it?
Many educators and organizations have tried to define the system lately. I think the US Department of Education has come closest to define the system properly. According to them, Personalized Learning can be defined as –
“Personalized learning refers to instruction in which the pace of learning and the instructional approach are optimized for the needs of each learner. Learning objectives, instructional approaches, and instructional content (and its sequencing) may all vary based on learner needs. In addition, learning activities are made available that are meaningful and relevant to learners, driven by their interests and often self-initiated.”
Modern Approaches to Learning
Although, we think that the system has a close tie to these three terms – personalization, differentiation, and individualization. One might easily confuse these three.
In simple words, personalization is a tailored system where learning needs and preferences tailored to different learners. A learner has a complete independence over what topics or skills he or she wants to harness. You could call it a self-directing learning approach.
In the differentiation approach, a teacher provides differentiated instruction to the different groups of students. Here, a teacher has the authority to teach a different group of learners that suits the need of the group. In short, it's a group approach.
And lastly, in individualization, a teacher tries to educate an individual student so that his or her skills can thrive. The teacher sets the pace, goals and curriculum for the individual learner. Still, the teacher is at the seat of the key driver in this method.
So, I think you can easily assess how personalization is different from the other two. If you want to be even clearer, in personalization, the learner has the complete authority over what he or she wants to learn about. Other methods have the teachers to do that for the learners.
Personalized vs. Adaptive vs. Competency-based Learning
There is another popular method of learning emerging these days – adaptive learning. Adaptive learning is a completely technology-driven method to assign a human being based on their needs.
Are you getting more confused? Yes, adaptive learning is almost similar to personalized learning. But there is a key difference between them. In adaptive learning, the technology is the driver whereas in personalized learning technology plays the role of the support.
On the other hand, the competency-based learning method tries to figure out the learning path based on the learner's capability to demonstrate the skills and proper competence. Here, the learner will apply the adopted knowledge learnt along to practical fields. This activity bolsters the creativity in a learner.
All of these methods are some of the modern approaches that can change the way we have been educated, or our ancestors have gone through. It is time we used the technology to shape up the education system that flourishes our inner potentials.
Why Consider Personalized Learning?
Three things were always constant in traditional classrooms –
- The fixed syllabus
- Fixed duration of the semesters, classes and exams.
- Limited and predetermined resources, i.e. books, notes etc.
All of the above elements try to equalize the students. There is very little or no room for creativity. Think of a kid who has the potential to be a magnificent poet or a writer. There is a possibility that he or she might not be good with math or physics. But our education system will label the student as a failure.
I have listed out some of the critical reasons that should make the parents rethink about their kids’ education method. Check them out –
A Dynamic Learning Environment
Every student has a different knowledge base or learning rate – you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know this simple truth. Typical old generation educators just didn’t agree to give different time to teach each student.
Luckily the modern educators strongly disagree with the traditional classroom model. They believe one-to-one or 1:1 teaching strategy is much more practical and effective for a student to truly grow.
Not only that but also this begets dynamic environment in the classroom. With just a little help from the technological tools, we can empower the students and make them their own driver of their education and future.
Settling off Competitions
This approach could also settle off the unhealthy competition among the pupils and diminish the difference between them as they would dwell in and competition-free environment.
I think you can relate to this fact you might have been pushed by your parents too for a better grade. We have also seen countless examples of a child committing suicide as he or she cannot take the pressure anymore.
Academic pressure is one of the main reasons for suicides and attempted suicide among teens. This is a crisis especially in Asian countries like in India, Korea, Japan, etc.
So, why should we make the lives of our kids miserable and make their life a living hell?
Suitable for Gifted Children
Weaker or the gifted children will stop feeling shallow as they don’t have to match the standard and have ample time to learn what actually want to learn.
For example, a dyslexic child faces a lot of problems reading texts. So, it’s only natural that they would need more time than an average child to learn or master a topic. With personalized learning, they can learn without any pressure at their own speed.
Collaborative Learning Environment
As I have said earlier, team-playing is a vital skill for a person in this and the upcoming era. Technology can help one to collaborate with another person breaking the boundary of a classroom. Personalized learning encourages an individual to work with another. So, we can easily conclude that this method will cultivate collaboration among the learners.
Real Lessons Rather than Cramming
Naturally, a learner will choose the topics that interests him or her that have a direct or indirect impact in the real world. Moreover, we can assume that the learning activities will be authentic and connected to real-world activities.
On the other hand, the traditional learning approach covers up a common curriculum. So, we have seen them learning a lot of lessons that has zero or little impact in real life. Cramming up answers of the some "important" questions before the exam day is a common scenario.
So, we can say that personalized learning can make studies more important and effective.
Coaches Rather than Teachers
In the personalized learning approach, a teacher plays the role of the facilitators or coaches. Actually, they don’t directly teach them things rather guides the learners to achieve their personal goals.
So, you see, a learner can learn way more and better and have an open view towards the world as the learning process will be so diverse.
A learner has the complete control over their syllabus or curriculum, whichever you prefer to call it. Such independence cultivates some of the important traits in a learner. For example, a learner practices critical thinking, creativity, and self-efficiency while selecting the topics and he or she might not even notice it!
Such independence makes a person stronger and helps him or her to make real-life decisions more efficiently and effectively.
On the Driver’s Seat!
A student has to take some of the critical decisions like – what to study, how to study, and how to study. Such activities make them more pro-active about decision making. When someone feels that he or she has the total control over their life they tend to put more effort into a task.
It would most certainly motivate them to study. We know that a child has little attention to their studies as they don’t feel like reading the topics that don’t attract them. If we can change the situation and let them choose the topic that interests them, they will most likely study them wholeheartedly.
The good news is the personalized learning will allow them to do so.
Teachers and parents sometimes find it really hard to identify the reason behind a child to fail or get bad grades. Finding the core reason such issues is really a tough nut to crack.
Personalized learning embodies technological help. With various progress report and analyzing study patterns of a learner, the teachers and parents can address the weakness and the strengths effectively.
Such reports could help a teacher to re-shape the study pattern of a particular learner. Such assessments are way more effective than the exams we have now.
Moreover, the demonstration of skills could have various forms than some written exams. Not only it opens the door for a better assessment, but it will replace the obsolete exam methods.
I am calling the exams obsolete as it creates unnecessary pressure on a learner that hinders the process of learning!
So, I think we are now on the page that personalized learning can eradicate all the negativity that our traditional education system had! But is our current world ready for the change? I am going to answer all of the questions, hold your horses!
Steps to Implement Personalized Learning
So, now you know what personalized learning is and why should one consider it. But how can a student get into the ecosystem of personalized learning? Over the years, researchers have tried to find a proper guideline that would help a student to get into the system of personalized learning.
Well, the transition will not be a simple one as a student will have forfeit the traditional approach and adapt to the newer method. So, rather than jumping into the new approach it better to adjust to the system step-by-step.
So, now I will discuss the six-stage inauguration approach to personalized learning.
Stage 1: Identify the Learners and Assess Their Capabilities
Before jumping into the practice to personalized learning, the teacher or the mentor should understand the learners and their capabilities well. This stage is crucial as this assessment will allow the mentor to plan and execute the approaches better.
So how could the mentor know the learners and their abilities? There is a method to identify the learners, and it is widely accepted – Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles. The UDL principles try to understand the inner strengths, weaknesses, challenges, aptitudes, talents, and interests. You could call it a SWOT analysis for the students.
The initial goal of UDL principles was to provide a better learning experience for the gifted children. But the method is really effective in more cases.
In this method, the mentor will create profiles for the individual learners. The mention will try to find out three answers in the following terms –
- Access – How the learner accesses information or how to make him or her understand a topic?
- Engage – How the learner engages with the learning materials?
- Express – How the learner expresses the learnt materials?
Based on the answers, the mentor will create a chart where he or she will try to identify these parameters –
Stage 2: Creating Custom Learning Environments
After identifying the needs of the learners, the mentor will try to create a learning environment. The learning environment will be suitable for each individual student but there will some form of scope for collaboration and team-playing.
The mentor could change the arrangement of the classroom. A good way could be the removal of the desks and chairs and creating different zones. There could zones for boosting creativity, thinking and self-exploration, experiment conducting zone, presentation zone, and so on.
My suggestion for the teachers would be to be creative and design the classroom in a way that inspires the learners to learn new things every moment.
There can be posters that motivate and a wall for showcasing creating through painting. The bottom line is that the environment should be vibrant and lively. Of course, there should be a Wi-Fi connection so that students can connect to the internet whenever they wish. The door to knowledge should always be open.
Stage 3: Develop Individual Goals and Lesson Plans
Now, the students are ready to learn as they have a suitable learning environment. But should the mentor choose a learning method that is more "one-size-fits-all?" Of course not! The primary assessment will come handy now. The teacher will try to work on the weaknesses as well as on the strengths of the students.
The mentor can choose different practical tasks (individual and group) that will try to help the students to overcome the weaknesses and improve the strengths. But at the same time, the mentor should keep in mind that at the end of a certain time frame, the whole class should achieve the benchmark of knowledge that makes them qualified to go through the next class or phase.
Moreover, the learning material should be relevant to the age of the learners. The mentor cannot expect a third grader to excel topics that are suitable for a tenth grader. I have discussed a model, SAMR in the later part of this article. A mentor can follow that strategy. It would be really effective.
Stage 4: Ask the Students to Drive Deeper and Create a Strong Sense of Humanity
Throughout the whole lesson, the mentor should teach them to think more humanely. As the students are going deeper into the world of infinite knowledge, they should build a strong sense of right and wrong.
This is very crucial. Knowledge is a powerful tool. If one uses the knowledge for the good of humanity, it's a boon. On the other hand, if a student uses this knowledge for destruction, chaos would destroy everything.
So, it is mandatory to teach them about wrong and right and make them more humane.
Moreover, the mentor should ask the students to go even deeper and seek more knowledge. Knowledge is like the infinite ocean. There is no end to it. It is the responsibility of the teachers to make them ever-thirsty for knowledge.
Stage 5: Help the Students to Choose Proper Learning Tools and Strategies
Students are like unmolded clay; you can shape them into anything! It is quite normal for the kids to be unfamiliar with the technological tools and proper learning strategies. The mentor should help them follow a path that would bring better results. For example, the mentor would suggest which websites to follow, which device to use, how to create a project, answer the relevant question, and so on.
This stage requires a lot from the mentors. The learners have all the power, but the mentor will teach them to wield power. Moreover, the mentor should be updated with newer technologies and tools at the same time. The whole system is advanced and updated; there is no scope for the mentor to be backdated in any way.
Stage 6: Assessment as Learning
I have always believed that exams are the most demoralizing aspect of traditional learning. There is no way that some exams for a few hours can determine the excellence of a student.
The ability of a student depends on how fast he or she can fill up some circle of MCQs – this is funny and quite sad at the same time!
Personalized learning enables a student to choose the topics that interests him or her. It is a more self-directed approach. So, the assessments should be different from the traditional written exams. Rather, the mentors should see if a student is actually learning.
How could they do it? They can check the progress or track the students using various tracking tools. The student can be asked to create a film on a topic with his or her peer. The mentor should be creative about it.
After the mentors have assessed the learners, the learners can use the assessment to know the sectors they are lacking. They can work on the sectors they are weak or learn the things they loved. That's the beauty of personalized learning.
So, this is a step-by-step approach to how a student could get familiar with this format of learning. There are other great methods too.
Can Personalized Learning Meet Traditional Educational Goals?
No matter how obsolete or backdated we call our traditional education system, it had some effective goals too. If we want to create a better educational system, we must pay heed to the former goals as well. Otherwise, we have to call the personalized learning approach to be obsolete as well in the near future.
If we want to impose this new education system, it would most likely cost a lot of money. The reasons are quite simple. Reshaping the classrooms, purchasing the technological tools, training the teachers are not just a few dollars more, it's a gigantic costing!
But the schools are constantly facing pressure to meet the standards. Maybe that's why the US Department of Education came up with a new plan in 2010. They are calling it the National Educational Technology Plan 2010 under the title of "Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology.”
The plan suggests implementing technology to teach and assess the students. In their words, it would be "pivotal in improving student learning and generating data.”
Apart from the governmental approach, three organizations – Greaves Group, Hayes Connection, and One-to-One Institute initiated a program naming Project RED. Project RED stands for Revolutionizing Education.
Their study and analysis concluded that the kind of investment that I have talked earlier about has a significant ROI rate if implemented effectively.
You must have noticed that I have used the term “if implemented effectively.” So, how can we make sure of it?
Well, the following model could come in handy!
A Technology-based Model to Improve Teaching Quality
There is no doubt that the teachers have changed their way of teaching the students if they want to impose this technology-based one-to-one learning approach. Not only it will change the quality of the system but also the teachers can help to implement the system more effectively.
Dr. Ruben R. Puentedura suggested a brilliant model that could change the way the teachers have been teaching the students from the beginning of the education system. The model is better known as SAMR.
SAMR model has four stages –
The SAMR model works like a ladder to teaching quality improvement. What this model tries to accomplish is to implement technologies in the traditional approach. This is a step by step process, and at the highest level in the Redefinition stage, the students will eventually see drastic changes in how they are learning a new thing more efficiently.
This will change the overall result of the teaching quality, and the teachers will soon notice the change in the grades of the students than before.
So, let’s dive deeper into the model, shall we?
At the first stage of SAMR, the teachers will use the technologies to do the same tasks they used to do before using the traditional system. For example, if a history teacher is teaching about World War I or II, instead of just telling the students about the incidents, they would show them videos. A student could use word processors to do homework rather than handwriting them. Apart from reading the textbooks, the student would research on the internet about a particular mathematical problem.
The idea is to do the same tasks with just some minor use of technological tools. You could think of it as a blending process of the traditional system and the modern approach that teachers are planning to impose eventually.
After the successful implementation of the Substitution, the teachers will slowly introduce Augmentation. In this stage, the students will enhance or improvise the traditional activities. You could call it a continuation of the previous method.
In this phase, a student would take part in online quizzes, rather than giving them in the earlier fashion. They can receive immediate results of such quizzes and check the mistakes and reflect immediately.
In the previous stage the teachers used to show them videos on a giant screen in the classroom, and now they would watch that video on their mobile phones. The teacher can later check that is a student has actually seen the video or not or even skipped it!
In the substitution stage they used word processors only, they can be introduced to spell checkers and how they can use the graphical tools as well.
As I have said earlier, Augmentation is a continual process of the Substitution process.
At the Modification stage, things will change drastically. By this time the students are now comfortable using various technologies for their studies. Now, the teacher will try to introduce personalized learning in a tiny bit.
The teacher can hand over project-based tasks to the students. A student will be asked to work on his or her particular project. But they will not do them as a solo project! They will team up some of the peers across the country who are interested in doing the same project.
Instead of working face-to-face, they would use various communication tools such as Skype, e-mails, Facebook, or any other instant messenger of their own choice.
This will bolster their communication skills and group performance even if their team member lives a thousand miles away!
Redefinition is the final stage of SAMR. In this stage, the various learning experience will become impossible to perform without technological tools.
For example, a student will create videos or podcasts on a local historic area and share the video live using YouTube or Facebook to other students living in different cities. The students from other schools can interact live with him or her.
This is just a simple example. A teacher can guide the student to perform various other tasks that would be impossible to perform without a mobile device. Moreover, all the tasks will differ from student to student as each student has different strengths, weaknesses, and personal preferences.
A teacher can help a student to collaborate with other students having a similar mentality. This will also create a scope for peer mentorship as a student learn so much from other students.
Personalized Learning in the Classroom
Some of you might think that personalized learning will eventually eradicate the classrooms. But actually, no, personalized learning will just improve the quality of learning and change the classroom environment.
Changing the classroom environment doesn’t necessarily mean that it would remove the classrooms from the system. As you have seen in the previous section, the SAMR model embodies the teachers and classrooms. The teachers will not be the same kind of teachers as before; they will become guides or mentors.
Technology will play a big role to create an atmosphere where the students will collaborate with others, use software every now and then, and start to learn through experiences. You could think of the new format of education as more interactive and content based.
Think of this example for a second, in the traditional classrooms; there are two sources of knowledge – the teachers and the textbooks. These are the only two sources of knowledge. You could easily say that the sources of the knowledge are too narrow and adverse to the broader perspective.
So, how the scene changes now? Think of a classroom where the teachers teach the students showing vlogs or other videos found online. The main source of the educational videos could be YouTube or some other profound educational websites. Or take a moment and think of the students learning from the various blogs rather than only depending on the textbooks they were provided.
Wait, let me give out some points that would clarify the situation –
The Blog Publishing Platforms
In the traditional style, students would use notebooks to take down the notes. Well, a human brain can only perform one task at a time. If someone says that they are very good at multitasking, they are just doing one task at a time but very quickly rotating between the tasks. So, it is quite impossible to pay heed to the lecture or understand a topic and take down notes at the same time.
A student can make a video of the lecture, make illustrations of the lectures and add notes. This could be a perfect note to clear a topic. The students could use blog publishing tools like WordPress to create such notes. Moreover, other students can follow the contents and learn even effectively. Other tools like NoteStar could do the same too.
Surveys Made Easier
A student is asked many times to work on surveys. A survey helps a student to understand what common people think on various issues. It enables the students to understand the varying opinions of the population. The traditional method suggests a student roam door to door asking people to fill out a survey form. This could be tiring and time-consuming at the same time.
But if a student uses online survey forms, he or she easily get the same result spending a lot less time. Online tools like SurveyMonkey could be a useful tool here in this scenario.
Tracking the Progress
What if a teacher could create online lessons and keep track of the students’ progress using simple tools. Well, there are a number of tools available online for the teachers to do so now. For example, TrackStar is an online tool where teachers could create interactive study materials and online lessons. The tool also enables the teachers to track the progress a student makes.
What if we use such progress tracking tools rather than making the students go through the fearsome exams? Food for people, food for thought!
Tools to Brainstorm
Brainstorming is considered one of the most critical skills that the skill-hunters seek these days. Brainstorming also has a close tie to other useful skill such as critical thinking, pressure handling, quick decision making, and creativity.
Now students can use online tools like ThinkTank to brainstorm and organize their research ideas.
When students are allowed to use online tools, a boundary breaks – the boundary of limitations. We have asked the students for too long to limit their imagination and thoughts. I believe this is the most destructive limitation we have set for the youngsters. Imagination is the most important skill a student needs and with the more modern tools they can truly dive into their world of imagination.
The best thing about personalized learning is the customization. Students can decide what they want to study and the teachers can set up different approaches for different students. The monotonous classrooms will shed off the gloomy colors if we could introduce technology in the classrooms rather than prohibiting the usage.
Technological Tools Suitable for Personalized Learning
By this time a common question should pop into your minds – “How various technological tools help personalized learning?” Well, I have decided to divide all the technological tools into five major categories –
- Literacy Resources
- Digital Information Resources
- Web Tools
- Social Networking Websites
- Learning Management Systems
Now, let me explain how these five types of technological tools will help the students to meet up all the necessities.
Examples: e-books, blogs, forums, and journals.
You could say this is the oldest method of learning any new topic. The reason is quite simple, here, a student will read about various topics. The main difference is that compared to the traditional style, a student will have much wider resources. Earlier, a student had only one source for learning new material – their textbooks. Now, a student could read opinions from real people from all over the world.
There are two main impacts – one, a student can study newer material and choose which writer soothe their taste. Two, the versatile opinions from people all around the world will broaden their mind.
Certain other technological tools will come to play at the same time – text-to-speech or virtual assistants will become tools that a student will use more frequently.
Consider this example to analyze the impact of wider literacy resources. Suppose, a teacher asked his or her students to complete an essay on “Impact of Globalization on International Trading.”
As you can see that the topic is quite broad and writing an essay on this topic could have multiple angles. The growth of knowledge would be much more diverse than the typical approach.
When the world of free knowledge is open to the students, they can delve into knowing new things every day and enrich their minds to newer possibilities.
Digital Information Resources
Examples: Encyclopedia websites, search engines, podcasts, expert websites, and media websites.
With search engines being sophisticated, we can know a new topic just with a single click. Suppose, someone asked the meaning of the word "Trypophobia." It is quite common for a person not to know the meaning of the word. So, what is a quick solution? "Just Google it!" Yes, this is one of the most common phrases one hears after asking a difficult question.
As I have said, one can know the meaning of the word Trypophobia just by searching the meaning.
Similarly, various other digital information resources can answer any question that might be bothering you. Acquiring knowledge is easier than ever with the blessing of technology. Web research is one of the most sought-after skill these days on various freelance platforms as well.
With these tools becoming handy, the teachers could try teaching the students how to use them even more efficiently.
Examples: YouTube videos, podcasts, wikis, media creators, and aggregators.
The demonstration of the learning is a crucial factor. Nowadays, only learning a new thing is as important as showing that someone knows it. Being proactive is not just another option now, people who want to excel in their career path has to be proactive.
Using these tools will enable a student to show or demonstrate their knowledge to others. Skills like content creation and creativity get a positive boost. Motivating the audience and presentation skills also get positive feedback. Students can learn about these technologies in a more practical way.
Let me tell you a case study. A class in Duane Webb was asked to complete a project on the Cold War. The teacher told the class that they can use any media that they wish to use. Moreover, there were instructions suggesting the student to be creative with their presentation – display of collaboration, self-direction, and creativity were highly encouraged.
Trang, a Vietnamese student, created a self-directed video. He was still learning English and interviewed his neighbors, family members, and fellow students. Finally, he presented the video in English and made the class stunned.
Not only he created a creative video on the Cold War but also improved his English speaking.
This could be a perfect example of a student using the technology and newer techniques of study improve themselves and having fun at the same time.
Social Networking Websites
Examples: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Skype, WhatsApp, and Viber.
Communication is a basic human need. Human race lives in communities, and there are pretty rational reasons behind it – together we are stronger. Schools and educators often consider the social media platforms to be a pure time killer.
Well, apparently, the impact is closely tied to the intention of the use. If one wishes to use the technology for the good, they can go beyond the limits. For example, consider Nas Daily. He is a Harvard graduate who instead of following the common path wanted to bring positive changes in his lives and all lives in this world.
If someone has a positive attitude and mindset, wonders can be created. The social networks can the students to cultivate co-operation among themselves and bolster team-playing characteristics.
Again, I am going to use a practical case study here. Donald is a high school student suffering from autism. He used Edmodo which is a social networking platform to connect with other students breaking the boundary of distance. Being an autistic child, he had problems communicating with others in the real world. But with the help of Edmodo, he overcame his fears and showed excellent socialization skills.
I can go pages after pages giving examples like Donald’s. But I think you get the gist.
Learning Management Systems
Examples: Limos LMS, TalentLMS, Docebo, eFront, eCoach, Canvas, etc.
Learning Management Systems or LMSs are helpful for both the teachers and the students. The teachers can make learning programs, communicate with the students, monitor their progress, and communicate with the parents all at the same time.
Such management platforms are like a one-stop solution to a lot of problems. Students could use such LMS platforms to educate themselves and be more organized about their studies. One thing for sure, learning in an organized manner helps a student to reach his or her goal more than choosing a random fashion.
Helping the Struggling Students: How Can Personalized Learning Help?
I have been discussing the impact of personalized learning on the students who comparatively are more active in the classes from the very beginning. It's time I discuss about the students who struggle to manage good grades or may be gifted.
Personalized learning is not just suitable for those who are proactive in school o wishes to do well in the class. There are students who find it a bit hard to keep up with pace like their peer.
So, I will divide these students into two groups –
- At-Risk Students
- Gifted Children
One thing is for sure, the students who lag behind their peer finds the school or study as the most frustrating or spirit-killing place on the earth. Who is to blame for this? I think, all the kids are born talented, but the education system labeled them as failures!
It’s quite normal that not all the students will learn at the same pace. Some will fall behind. So, what do we do with them? We give a tag of failure. How demoralizing!? When a student fails a couple of times in the initial phase, he or she gets for demoralized that they start to believe that they are not capable!
Personalized learning focuses on creating newer ways of learning, customized for individuals.
So, how does it help an at-risk student?
First of all, a student is learning using different methods, not with chalks and dusters anymore. They are assessed by creating films, or blogs or any other media oriented presentation. Students will not just pass the exams based on the black and white written exams. So, a different approach of showing competency might increase the interest in them.
Second of all, a teacher can monitor the progress of each student using various tracking tools. So, if a student is falling behind, the teacher could set different method to educate the child.
Third of all, the assessment of the learning progress depends on multiple factors. You can consider, team-work, creativity, leadership to be even more important skills than before.
Let's start with a statistical fact, roughly, 186 million students cannot complete their primary school as they suffer from disabilities like dyslexia. This huge number of special children cannot continue their education as the current system doesn't seem as fit as the others. This is really shameful as students with disabilities have an equal right to educate themselves.
One of the man reasons behind such occasion is that the students don’t feel emotionally weak as they think that everyone is judging them. The sad truth is – others do judge them.
In some cases, they are badly bullied while in other cases, they are heavily mocked by their peer as well as their teacher. Such demotivating acts make them feel shallow, and eventually, they drop out.
With the new technology-driven personalized learning they can keep on moving in their own pace and never feel competitive. The last thing you want to put a gifted child to go through is competition. To more competition they feel the lesser they feel about themselves.
With personalized learning, the gifted child can learn about the things that make them interested. The special teachers can guide them in a better way. Moreover, they can finally live in the education world where they don't feel like being in a race.
They can also enroll in the special study courses that are designed differently from ordinary ones. Finally, we can educate them by only teaching them and not by judging their capability to compete with others.
Revolutionizing Teaching Models with Personalized Learning
For years, we have been educating our young generation is a "one-size-fits-all" way. There are a lot of newer models of teaching invented in the past couple of years. Such new models could impact the way we have been educating the children.
For years, we have prohibited the students from using the technological tools in the classroom. The reason is quite simple; we thought that these technological devices would be "distracting." Or maybe we haven't understood that a mobile device could be much more than a child's plaything.
I would say that it was our lack of knowledge and failure to seek the bigger picture. Technology could be our best friend when comes to educating while we thought it would be the thing hindering the progress.
Don Knezek, the CEO of International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) told us differently ten years ago in 2008. He said that integration and implementation of technology in education would beget positive impact on student achievement.
If we can collaborate with the technology and tweak our teaching approaches, wonders can happen. It will not only make the students more skillful but also can enhance the bonding between the teachers and the students. Rather than being specialized mentors on a particular subject, the teachers can truly play the character of an advisor, guide, content expert, life coach.
So, now I am going to discuss four technology-based teaching model that can revolutionize the teaching –
- Blended Learning
- Flipped Learning
- Online Learning and
- Mobile Learning
Blended learning is an approach where the online learning and traditional face-to-face learning reside side by side. For example, a teacher would teach the class about a particular topic in the classroom. This part of education would act as an initiation. After students have learnt the basics, they would research the topic online and explore on their own.
This approach is more controlled than a completely technology depended learning method. At the same time, it is much faster paced than the traditional approach.
The blended learning approach is quite effective as the face-to-face learning approach bolsters the brainstorming skills and idea-sharing. Moreover, the online learning section helps a student to be more thoughtful and exploration.
The online learning part is not dependent on being in a classroom. Students could do such online learning even on the go. Only a good internet connection and a device to connect to the internet is enough to indulge in such activity.
The "blended" approach helps both the teachers and the students. Each student can move in their own speed and work on their individual strengths and weaknesses. Crucial skills like deep-thinking, communication, collaboration, and exploration get cultivated.
On the other hand, the teachers can plenty of time to plan ahead and monitor the progress of the students with proper care. A teacher can assess the learning approaches and tweak it according to the demand of the pupils.
Flipped learning, as the name suggests is quite the opposite to the traditional method of learning. In a more common scenario, a student comes unprepared in the class, and the teacher teaches them about unknown topics.
In the flipped learning environment, each student is expected to have personal computers in their home. All the students join a network where they can find the study materials needed to complete the syllabus – a video, e-books, or other media contents. They go through these study materials before attending the class.
In the classroom, the teacher answers the questions the students have in their mind. You could call it a reactive method. A teacher's role is to guide the students only and help them to overcome the confusions they have in their mind.
So, why is this method effective? Well, students can save their time taking notes and don’t have to keep up with group pace. Instead, they can take their time and learn about the topics when they please and explore the ideas according to their wish. And if they have confusions and questions about the topics, the teachers will be there to solve the issues.
The brighter side of this method is a student has more independence and freedom. This method is not a modern one but an ancient one. Socrates, the famous philosopher, used this method to educate his followers. He only asked questions and told his followers to find the answers themselves.
You should have a clear idea about online learning by this time. Online learning completely ignores the necessity of physical classrooms. There are already a lot of online programs available. Even the mighty universities like Harvard and Yale have online courses offered to the students all over the world. The location of a student doesn't matter in the case of online learning.
The study materials are available online – online lectures, tutorials, books, relevant videos, and everything you can imagine. With the online learning, education becomes truly global and within everyone’s reach as it should be.
As the time passes, the idea of complete online learning is getting more and more popular. A 2013 study, "Survey of Online Learning" discovered that about 7.1 million US students took online courses in fall 2012 alone. It is also a result of the blended learning environment. Students learnt about a particular topic in the classroom and then decided to look even further and ended up taking online courses.
This also indicates that students are considering the online learning more effective than learning in the classroom.
With proper guidance, the online learning approach might overthrow the traditional learning method in the coming years.
Mobile phones were considered the enemy of the students not so long ago. Teachers and parents saw these devices as the killer of their kids’ future and education. Well, every device has their own good and bad impacts. The effect depends on how people use it.
Today, almost every human being has a smartphone. It’s a necessity now, not a luxury anymore. Studies show that about 80% teens all over the world own a smartphone. It’s the fastest moving technology the world has ever seen in terms of usage.
So, how can this device become the primary tool for education? It creates an opportunity for the students to learn on a new topic even on the go. Suppose, a student is taking a bus to the school and the way to the class they can check on the topics they are about to learn in the class that day. As I have said before, everything depends on the perspective on the user.
Mobile learning opens the door to newer possibilities. For example, a student can get study materials on his phone via the cloud service, take photos of the notes, share the notes to his or her peers, get reminders, skype with other classmates, join a webinar, get lessons, and many more.
The only limit to hold a student back is the imagination. Who said we need implanted technologies to become androids, we are already one!
Devices and Services to Accompany Personalized Learning
Which tools come to your mind when you are imagining the word – education? Pen and paper will obviously come to the mind, next come whiteboard, markers, chalks, and blackboards maybe. But these days we see devices to take the positions of the educational tools.
I have been saying in the whole article that technology is the main driver of personalized learning. But which of the technological tools come to play along this learning approach? Moreover, are there any good services that can help the students?
Well, in this section I will try to list out all the possible devices and services that can help a student to learn in their own terms. Moreover, I shall try to describe how these devices can be of the use of the students.
Mobile Phones or Smartphones
Smartphones are now the most widely used electronic device in the world. At present, there are about 2.5 billion smartphone users that are about 36% of the total population. With this many people depending on these devices, can we call them a device of luxury? Moreover, people don't only use the smartphones for convenience or communication – it has become a lifestyle.
Students can connect, surf websites, use educational apps, play constructive games, watch videos, read books, and what not? I believe, smartphones can be the strongest electronic device that can help flourish personalized learning. But one must remember, only the use of smartphones cannot be sufficient to meet all the needs of the students.
Pros: Handy, easier communication, simple, has a camera and video recording options, GPS and internet functionality.
Cons: Smaller display, can be distracting and out of control quite easily.
Laptop PC is one of the most useful devices for the students. You can take these handy devices anywhere you want. Unlike the smartphones and tablets, they can get works done! They have a much bigger screen than the other portable devices. The physical keyboard works perfectly when it comes to word processing. It obviously has more computational power than the others.
Students can plug it to the projectors instantly to showcase the projects and presentations. Laptops were born way earlier than the smartphones, Chromebooks, tablets. That makes them more dependable. And to be frank, they are much sturdier than then newborn devices.
Overall, laptops are more essential mainly because of the wider functionality and offering diverse usage.
Pros: Bigger display, physical keyboard and touchpad, portability, more computational power, and diverse usage.
Cons: Heavier and bulkier compared to the newborn devices.
Tablet PC with Keyboard and Pen
Some of you might think that a tablet and a tablet PC is the same thing. Well, they look really similar but has some distinctive differences. For example, a tablet is run by mobile operating systems like Android or iOS. On the other hand, tablet PCs have desktop-based operating systems like Windows, Linux, or Mac. Moreover, a tablet PC comes with a keyboard and digital pen by default (in most cases). So, they are just PCs but has the portability of a tablet.
Considering the positive application, some of the schools have already decided to buy a tablet PC to enrich the multimedia system of the classrooms. I think the tablet PCs are the perfect companion for the younger children who don't need an awful lot of computation power. Although, a college or a university student might need a laptop or a desktop to handle the heavier load.
Moreover, a tablet PC comes with a keyboard and a digital pen. So, it eradicated the cons of an app-based tablet in many ways. A student can take notes using the word processors, even with their digital pens. The digital pens are very handy when it comes to editing or taking notes.
Google, the tech giant, has launched their own laptop PCs designed to serve the students naming Chromebook.
Pros: Video and still camera, internet surfability, physical keyboard and a digital pen, larger display, more sophisticated OS.
Cons: Not as powerful as the laptops.
Tablets and the smartphones are almost similar. Well, with a few minor differences. First of all, tablets have a slightly larger screen than the smartphones but not as big as the laptops. So, tablets with various apps can be something that classrooms can use quite efficiently.
Recently, the app stores of the mobile OS platforms have a huge collection of educational apps that students on K-12 can use on various purposes. Even our website have different games that help the children to learn with fun.
As for functionality, an app-based tablet can is pretty much a smartphone without the ability to make phone calls and sending text messages.
So, it is easier to control in a classroom environment without being distracted.
Pros: Larger display than the smartphones, comes with a video and still camera, has an internet connection, a wide collection of apps available on the app stores, and less distracting compared to the smartphones.
Cons: Doesn’t have a physical keyboard or mouse, no support for digital pens, and has less computational power compared to the laptops.
So that was the discussion about the devices that can help the community to create the environment for personalized learning. There are some great services available today that also play vital roles to promote personalized learning.
When we want to store any piece of data in any device, we need digital storage spaces. Have you ever imagined where are the millions of videos of YouTube is stored? We are not talking about only terabytes. YouTube needs about 7.7 Petabytes of storage space per year to store the videos constantly uploaded by people all over the world.
Most of the online services store their data on the clouds. This means there are huge warehouses with millions of storage units and internet users can access them via an internet connection.
This a great technology where learners can find the educational materials easily. We don't need to rely on the papers anymore; the human race has found a better way to store the infinite knowledge that is open for everyone.
The only downside is if by any issue the data centers shut down, we might lose the data stored on the cloud. But that is like imagining the complete apocalypse.
Social Media Platforms
I have already discussed about the social media platforms and their valuable role in personalized learning. They are the ultimate tool for communication, collaboration, and innovation.
It is because of these social media platforms that we feel that the whole world is a global village where anyone can communicate with anyone.
Personalized learning is now getting more and more accepted by organizations all over the world. We are living in the pinnacle of the technological era. Smartphones are now our companions. Machine learning, artificial intelligence, and bio-engineering have reached newer heights. It's high time we took a step and upgrade ourselves and most importantly our education system.
Education is now a thing that is open to all. Knowledge is easier to achieve. Everyone can be everyone now. With just sheer will, people can educate themselves and be whoever they want to be.
If you look around yourself, you will see massive changes that were simply unimaginable just a few decades ago. So, keep faith in yourself and be positive. You have the power to change the world for a better tomorrow!
So, what do you think of the guide? If you have any question, shoot it down on the comment section below, and I will try to answer them all!